quinara: Wishverse Buffy in a white frame. (Buffy Wish white box)
[personal profile] quinara
Apparently I wasn't kidding about the Buffy-Illyra+dragon shenanigans! I bring you approximately 2000 words of PG fic, involving Buffy and Illyria and a dragon and introductory Spuffiness. With shenanigans possibly giving way to angst a little bit, but not so very far! Also a title snatched from the lines of T.S. Eliot... (The image actually encapsulates several aspects of the fic and reflects my feeling towards it, but, anyway, I apologise.) Set a couple of years after the end of A5, following a canon that puts Buffy in Rome.

Warnings: None especially, but references to death and panic attacks.

Buffy and Illyria go for pizza. There's a dragon.

The Last Fingers of Leaf.

There were many upsides to dating Spike. Patrolling was more fun, the sex was great – life in general was more fun, really, even if she lived most of it down a phone line, and every now and then she’d get poems, in emails sent at odd times of the LA night, that had her name in even though Spike would swear he hadn’t written them himself. If you put their relationship on the great set of scales called life, she was a happy Buffy.

There were some things, however, that would always be mind-blowingly infuriating.

”Poker? You’re going to play poker? You and Lirry-whosit have only been here three days; how d’you even know there’s a game on?”

“Got an invite on my phone, didn’t I? It’s not all lymph rituals and feudalism with us demons, Slayer. We’re an international community.”

“So… Clem set it up before you came.”

“Not entirely! They hadn’t decided on a bar. Till now. Anyway, you and Blue’ll be all right for a few hours, yeah?”

“Wait, what – ”

“Don’t wait up, will you, pet?”

“Spike! Get back here – you can’t leave me with her!”

“Love you!”

Spike!


“So,” Buffy asked, kicking her heels against the kitchen counter she sat on. The sullen god stared back, unimpressed. “What d’you wanna do?” She was trying for perky, though she wasn’t sure why. It had never worked on Dawn when she was in a mood.

“You speak to me as if I were a child.”

Oh great, and it was going about as well as it always had with Dawn. “No, I mean, obviously you’re not a kid –”

“I am older than you can comprehend; to me your life is as a mote of dust, momentary and passing on a breath of wind.”

“OK,” Buffy agreed, trying hard to tone down her I’m-going-to-humour-you smile. It was a reflex! “So, we’re in Rome! D’you wanna go for pizza?”




She really had to stop suggesting pizza every time someone came to visit whom she didn’t know how to entertain – which was almost everyone, really. Xander had it right: American pizza good, interesting choice of toppings; Roman pizza too thin, lacking in the grease, tasted too much like real food. And that wasn’t even getting into the fact that, since she still hadn’t quite got the hang of cooking, Buffy had eaten a lot of Roman pizza over the last few years.

Also, to add injury to insult, her new heels were trying to kill her. Walking up to the piazza was like one long stretch of stiletto-platform torture.

She tried again with the conversation, to distract herself from the pain. “I guess you and Spike must be like best buds in LA, huh?” she asked, glancing at Illyria and then, looking past her, finding it kind of hilarious that there was a guy clearly crossing the road to avoid the catsuited goth chick.

“No,” the god replied. “He is my pet.”

For a moment Buffy thought she hadn’t heard correctly, that she’d been distracted. Then she couldn’t help it – she burst out laughing. “What?” she asked eventually. “With a leash and a rubber ball and everything?” She could get so much mileage out of this. Also, hmm, leashes…

Illyria scanned the street as they walked, sneering at the car parked up the curb and in their way. “He provides me with entertainment.”

She could agree with that. “I hear you beat him up a lot.”

And then, without warning, the pavement exploded in front of them. A drain cover came haring their way so fast that Buffy had to roll to one side. It caught her hand as it passed and, weirdly, burned like a baking tray just come out of the oven, only, ow, a lot heavier.

“Um, yeah,” she said as she climbed to her feet, brushing her hair back into place and trying to block out the sound of car alarms. “I like Rome and all, but I do not need SPQR branded on my face.” The ground around the drain cover was ruptured, the hole in the pavement longer and wider than a step, though Buffy knew she could jump it comfortably. She looked around for casualties, but there weren’t any, just people staring and stopping on their bikes in the road to see what had happened

Illyria came up to her side, standing at the edge of the hole just as Buffy began to mentally list the demons she knew of that could have caused this. She wished she knew more demons.

Not that it mattered anyway; funky was funky. “I no longer care for pizza,” Illyria said.

“Out of the mouths of hellgods,” Buffy agreed.

They leapt down as one, Illyria onto her custom-imagined, deep-tread boots and Buffy onto the balls of her already-massacred feet. Smelly, filth-ridden water flowed in through her peep-toes. Ah, back in her comfort-zone once more.

“I was always a little shaky on physics,” Buffy commented, turning around and looking back up into the glow of the Roman night, “but if the whirling disk of flamey death came in our direction, that means the blast came from diagonally opposite us, right?”

Illyria said nothing.

“But, uh, I guess unless we know whether whoever it was was blasting in front of themselves or behind them that information’s pretty useless.”

Nothing.

“Let’s go this way,” Buffy said at last, pointing in the direction they’d initially faced on leaping down.




Roman sewers weren’t so bad for walking through, though not long after moving here Buffy had come to the horrifying realisation that she missed the ones in Sunnydale, which had been designed so you could walk through them without actually meeting that much sewage and, more importantly, had been far better lit.

Here you had to concentrate just so you didn’t walk into a wall. It was all too easy to lapse into silence.

They had been walking for a while when Buffy asked, “What was that?” Annoyingly it seemed she’d defaulted to a whisper. Still, all the better to hear: there was a shuffling sound, a rustle combined with a rumble, not too far away in the dark. After nothing but the sound of dripping water it was a welcome change.

“Silence,” Illyria commanded, though without any malice Buffy could discern. The phrasing chafed, but Buffy had to admit the suggestion was pretty sensible. Part of her wondered why she wasn’t more annoyed.

The noise persisted as they followed its echo round a few more bends and Buffy found herself essentially on tiptoes, adrenaline almost making her forget about her shoes as her heart beat faster. Illyria, somehow, moved silently through the sludge. As they approached whatever it was the darkness became unbearable – oppressive, unyielding and far too thick.

A small huff was their only warning before the tunnel ahead of them flared bright with fire, the heat rushing backwards though the actual flame was ten feet ahead. Its source was a greyish-yellow lizard, possibly white when it wasn’t lit by orange, crawling not far ahead of them like a crocodile, but with a thinner body, head and limbs as well as two flaps that looked like folded wings across its back. They were as long as the creature’s torso, but Buffy was fairly sure they wouldn’t be able to support the lizard’s weight.

“Is that a dragon?” Buffy whispered to Illyria as the thing shuffled on.

“A lowly scion,” came the reply in hushed, bitter tones. “No more a dragon than grains of sand my army.”

It didn’t make a lot of sense, but Buffy hadn’t been expecting it to, and it sounded sad, so on reflex she reached out a comforting hand to Illyria’s wrist. For a brief moment her fingers touched carapace, or whatever it was, and she was surprised to find it warm, like the skin of a snake. More hard-wearing than skin, almost certainly, but supple. Illyria flinched away.

The next bend they turned seemed offer more light than that before. Squinting, Buffy could begin to make out the shape of the dragon, a creamy white now in the dark. It seemed still not to have noticed it was being followed, leading them slowly to a rare floodlight and turning left underneath it, almost certainly leaving the map into a tunnel, which, when they inspected it, seemed less than structurally sound.

“It’s the million-dollar question,” Buffy mused, shielding her eyes now to look Illyria in the face. “If we get stuck in there, can you smash our way out to the surface? Because, I have a thing about being underground, so I can’t promise there won’t be major freakage in my...”

And suddenly she really didn’t want to be there. God, not now, she thought, as the air seemed to thin, not getting into her lungs no matter how hard she breathed. She could feel satin against her fingertips, wood against her knuckles, no matter how tight she made fists against her cheeks, trying to breathe.

She shut her eyes, thinking of sun and sky. Not now.

When she opened her eyes again, Illyria was staring at her, head tilted in a peculiarly familiar way. “I want to know this creature,” she said, not unkindly, but not offering any especially comforting vibes either. It was actually quite a welcome response. “I want to see what it has become in the passing aeons of this world. We will leave this cave after.”

Pressing her hands against her eyes, Buffy took a breath. “OK. Well, the killing urge has gone for me, to be honest, ‘cause it’s not like anyone got hurt, but I need to check that blowing up the sidewalk wasn’t part of some wider plan to kill us all. So let’s check.”

Without even a nod, Illyria made her way into the entrance, crouching in a way Buffy suspected she had yet to do in her stolen body. The tunnel wasn’t all that long, but it smelt so much like earth that Buffy had to hold her breath, clamping a hand over her mouth and nose until she stumbled into what she had assumed was going to be a cave.

It wasn’t. It was a small, cement-walled rectangular room, lit by fluorescent strip lights and housing two large junction boxes made out of green-painted metal. And the dragon, of course.

At the sight of them the creature hissed, rearing back onto its hind legs and flapping its wings wildly to keep itself upright. The poor thing looked like it was about to topple over, puffing smoke and shaking its head as though it was trying to blow flames but couldn’t when it was standing like this. Around its feet was a sad, if sparkling, pile of debris: a few clusters of cheap and tarnished jewellery, but mostly drinks cans and foil chocolate wrappers that it could barely find purchase on. In one corner of the room, Buffy noticed, were the remains of its food: barbecued rats in various stages of decay.

She stepped back into the tunnel, trying to calm the dragon down as much as she was trying to avoid Illyria’s eyes. The god wouldn’t want her to see the reality dawn about what this part of the old world had become. “Come on, Blue,” she found herself saying, feeling momentarily strong in the loam-smelling darkness. “Let’s go get that pizza. And, hey, I know this place that does gelato almost the same colour as your hair.”

At length Illyria replied, “I like artichokes.”




Pizza was oddly companionable, if subdued. As Buffy poured them both one last glass of wine, she found herself saying, “Did you know my whole town got blown up? It saved the world, but it kinda sucked.”

Illyria contemplated the few remaining crumbs of tiramisu in front of her. “When I left this world, my kingdom was a wonder, strong and bright, coveted by all. Its ruin was slow.”

“And you didn’t get to see,” Buffy prompted, sipping wine.

“I see it now,” Illyria replied, looking up bright-eyed.

In the silence that followed, Buffy could think of no response but to set her mouth grimly in sympathy. Change was never easy.

Then, unexpectedly, Illyria continued. “I have this shell,” she said, looking down at herself, “fragile construct that it is. And I have nothing else.” Silence. And then the confession, “Once I had everything.”

Buffy remembered when she felt complete, warm and loved and whole, remembered the fall from grace that followed. That no one understood. “We should do this again,” she said seriously.

(no subject)

Date: 22/01/2010 01:44 (UTC)
stultiloquentia: Campbells condensed primordial soup (Default)
From: [personal profile] stultiloquentia
Oh my. This is a keeper. You nailed both their voices. I love Buffy's dry humour (Smelly, filth-ridden water flowed in through her peep-toes. Ah, back in her comfort-zone once more.) and Illyria's unexpected warmth. And the poor little dragon. It's wonderful how you connect the dots between the dragon and Illyria and Buffy's home town. Change and diminution and clinging and loss. And the spark of connection those, unexpectedly, create.

I'm kind of mooning over the way this story slots in next to mine. Tessellations.

(no subject)

Date: 22/01/2010 06:27 (UTC)
syderia: buffy - s7 (btvs)
From: [personal profile] syderia
Great story !

(no subject)

Date: 23/01/2010 11:54 (UTC)
ffutures: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ffutures
Saw this recced by Selenak, liked it a lot.

(no subject)

Date: 23/01/2010 13:58 (UTC)
elisi: (buffy by kathyh)
From: [personal profile] elisi
Oh this is wonderful. I adore Buffy-in-Rome stories, and I adore anything with Illyria, and the combination is pure win!

Especially love that it's not a bonding-over-beating-something-up story, the melancholy mood is far more interesting.

(no subject)

Date: 24/01/2010 02:59 (UTC)
sobsister: Zoe Saldana yelling and firing two guns. (Default)
From: [personal profile] sobsister
This is so good. I don't know what it is about Buffy and Illyria's characters that makes any interaction between them so fascinating (although you've certainly hit on part of it with that last parallel - what a brilliant connection). I love your attention to detail - Buffy's impractical shoes, the contrast with Sunnydale sewers, the idea that italian pizza is like real food.

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quinara: Sheep on a hillside with a smiley face. (Default)
Quinara

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